Saturday, January 22, 2022

Namibia accuses Botswana of economic sabotage

Namibian citizens have vowed to fight tooth and nail to stop ‘greedy Botswana’s’ continued plans of waging an economic war against their country.

This emerged from a report released recently by Namibia’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Security, Security, Constitutional and Legal Affairs that was tasked by the two neighbouring countries to investigate Botswana Defence Force (BDF)’s alleged harassment of Namibians living along shared rivers. 

In its findings, the committee states that “witnesses are of the view that Botswana has adopted the act of Competitive Exclusion Principle by eliminating Namibia from tourism in the Okavango Delta and thus waging an economic war with Namibia by threatening Namibia tourism which is a big economic sector in Zambezi Region.”

The report says this kind of harassment by members of BDF “has reduced the number of tourists in the region fearing of being shot and killed by the BDF.”

According to the competitive exclusion principle, two species competing for the same limited resources cannot coexist at constant population values.

On a related issue that the report says amounts to competitive exclusion, the committee said it established that no boat is allowed to cruise in the Chobe River from Impalila to Ngoma after 18:00 adding that “this is due to the restrictions put by Botswana government.”

 “According to boat taxi drivers, this has caused conflict with the BDF whenever they are on tour with tourists resulting in being harassed by the BDF and also the long travelling hours from Ngoma to Impalila sailing in the Chobe River,” the report says.

Meanwhile, the committee said it had established that a draft Chobe River Trans-boundary Tourism Code (CRTTCoC) was developed following an increase in boating for activities which required better self-regulation and tour operators and thus, the implementation of an agreed Code of Conduct (CoC) was proposed as an essential to harmonise tourism operation, harness tourism development opportunities at an landscape level, guide the use of shared watercourse to address conflicting river uses and activities and address trans-boundary Natural Resources Management and environmental issues.

The report says the draft was developed with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on the use of international waters, water abstraction, river pollution and waste management, boat travel, river-based and land use tourism conduct including lodges safaris, the conduct of fishing people, human-wildlife conflict (HWC) management and security forces.

“Despite this arrangement, the committee was informed by witnesses that skippers continue to be harassed by the BDF in the Chobe River. According to witnesses, boat taxi drivers are ordered to stop while in Chobe River by the BDF and that are accused of being in Botswana illegally,” the report says.

It says witnesses informed the “committee that most of their tourists from South Africa through Botswana and as such boat taxi drivers are required to wait for them in Kasane (Botswana) and they are mistreated by the Botswana authorities such as letting them float in the Chobe river without docking.”

The report further states that “witnesses also submitted that there were prohibited from the Chobe river when they were undergoing tour guide training on the catching vultures.”

It says part of this training, required them to undergo practical training in the Chobe river. “While they were busy with the practical sessions, they were approached by the BDF members, who informed them to dock and asked why they were in Botswana illegally,” the report says.

According to the report, a 2018 Namibia-Botswana Boundary Treat turned to be main core issue raised by residents along the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwando Rivers including their Traditional authorities.

“Witnesses presented that consultations with resident of the Zambezi Region concerning the Board Treaty of 2028, never took place and as such residents along the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwando rivers claim that their rights to development as enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights were violated,” the report says.

It adds that “Witnesses further narrated that despite powers vested in the President and Parliament on negotiating and ratifying of treaties, it was participation of the inhabitants of the Zambezi Region in the affected areas to have their consent considered.”

The report states that according to witnesses, “their crop fields, islands where they relied for fishing and other natural resources including grazing land which formed part of Namibia before the signing of the 2018 border treaty, are now annexed to Botswana territory as part of the treaty. These islands are Shingabali Mwanahatsiye, Kaqharu, Lyanambe, Zizira, Mawunga hamunguro and Txidamu, all these islands were lost to Botswana without the knowledge and consent of the inhabitants.”

According to witnesses these islands are home to different species indicating rhino, elephants, buffaloes, crocodiles, impalas and other species that could have contributed positively to Namibian economic sector through tourism activities.

“Kwando Rivers are still the borderline or whether the new border treaty has excluded these rivers as claimed by the Botswana Defence. Witnesses emphasised that proper consultations and participation of the affected communities are crucial components that should have been given prominence,” the report says.

The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reforms should conduct a board stakeholder consultations and awareness sessions with communities living alongside Chobe/Linyanti/Kwando Rivers to share and explain geographically which of the islands belong to Namibia and which belongs to Botswana. As the general understanding of the communities is that Botswana is occupying islands that belong to Namibia and nothing is being done by their government to protect its territorial sovereignty in the region.

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